Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie

1. Bibliography: Sonnenblick, Jordan. Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie. New York: Scholastic, 2004.

2. Genre and Awards:
Young Adult/Illness/Siblings
BookSense pick for both fall 2004 and fall 2005, a Booklist Editors' Choice for 2005, and a Borders Original Voices pick; it also placed fifth on the American Library Association's Teens' Top Ten list for 2005

3. Synopsis:
Steven is a super-cool 13 year old who doesn’t even know he is cool. He plays the drums in the All-City Jazz Band and has a crush on a super hot girl. Steven’s only annoyance is his younger brother, Jeffrey. When Jeffrey gets diagnosed with leukemia, Steven has to face all the emotions that charge at him, despite the fact that his little brother seems to handle the news bravely and perfectly, while his family is torn to its limits.

4. Characters:
Steven is a typical 13 year old boy. He loves music and girls. He detests his younger brother Jeffery, but he loves him fiercely as well. Although we are never privy to Jeffery’s interior, he is also a worthwhile character. He seems simple to Steven, but Steven begins to recognize a real ferocity in his little brother that he comes to appreciate and admire. His parents seem real, and Steven’s perceptions of the way they are dealing with Jeffery’s illness are pretty perceptive, although, I am not sure about Steven’s dad. The introduction of Samantha, another sick teen in Jeffery’s hospital who teaches Steven a valuable lesson is a little formulaic, although I think adolescent kids will like her and feel the pain that Steven experiences. She is a good conduit to the morality lessons this book is trying to achieve.

5. Plot:
In this book Steven learns that his brother has a terrible illness—leukemia. The story is told from the first person narration of Steven as he struggles through the school year dealing with his burgeoning hormones, a sick brother, parents on the brink and his love of music. The ending is kind of a twist, at least when I read it; I did not predict what was going to happen.

6. Needs of adolescents:
Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie is a book that will help many adolescences deal with difficult situations at home. While many students may not have to deal with such extreme situations as Steven’s many will identify with feeling like the world is crashing down on them. In a world of fast, faster and fastest, things come at kids really quickly, and this book shows how things can change on a dime, and represents ways in which they might go through the process of dealing with harsh realities.

7. Possible Classroom Uses:

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie would be good for a small group or as a read aloud. I think kids would get really taken in by Steven’s story. It might also have some implications of bringing in music and discussing ways to express frustration by sharing things they may be passionate about.

8. Appropriate Age Range

Drums is a great book for middle school or junior high readers.

9. Personal Reactions
Time to get personal—oh no! My daughter, Olivia, suffered an experience where she was sick, and they thought she might have had a brain tumor. During this time, although my husband and I were not like Steven’s parents, my adolescent son experienced a lot of things like Steven. This book was really dear to him because from the first page he completely saw himself as Steven. We have recommended this book to people who are struggling with sick siblings or children. I think it effectively walks people through the stages of coming to grips with things that are beyond our control. I loved it, and was hooked by Steven’s language and the style in which it is written. When I was reading this book at a ball game the other day, I had several junior high students come up to me to start talking about how much they had loved it. I think this is a great, simple read to share with kids who other might not like to read, or might feel like reading is too difficult or complicated for them.


Scott said...

Let me just say, thank you for recommending, and lending me, the book. It's an excellent read for such a broad audience. I loved how it handled cancer in a respectful, informative, and even humorous manner. I haven't yet given this a thought, but do you think this could be used as a bridge to any classics? I can't think of any offhand, but your mind's much more active than mine. Now, if we could only bottle up your enthusiasm for YA Lit, we might be able to make it through this year...

Kelly Riley said...

This book sounds great, but, actually, it was your writings under "personal reactions" that really has inspired me to read this book. I am so happy that it helped you and your family through such a tough time. I like, also, that the book manages to use humor in dealing with such weighty issues. I will definitely make time for this book. I love Scott's comment about bottling your enthusiasm for YA lit. He's right, you know. We really do need you and your zest in order to make it out of this program alive and, I might add, in a relatively stable emotional state. So, get to bottling! TeeHee.